A short story about a teenager a little different from the usual.
|The first time I was caught sucking blood I was in kindergarten. The teacher immediately called my parents in for a conference. They tried not to make too big a deal of it, but I could tell they were concerned. My parents were summoned, moderately mortified, but must have felt that it was just what young kids did until they grew old enough to know better. I could also tell by the look on their faces and the fact that the teachers snatched me away from the little boy’s neck that maybe I had done something wrong. It was so confusing. Biting his neck seemed so normal to me that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I must have cried for hours, probably seconds, but kids have no sense of time.
Over the endless years of elementary school, I resisted the urge to bite people and on the whole, I did pretty well; at least, I didn’t leave marks. It wasn’t until puberty that the urge became overwhelming. It was all I could think about. I dreamed about blood in my sleep. I sated myself by feeding on mice, small squirrels, and an occasional bird. I would leap out of my window and catch them in the trees where they tried to hide. I even considered feeding on bats; after all they were nocturnal, but the similarity of our canines convinced me that was somehow like feeding on my own kind.
One night I caught a kitty on the ledge outside my bedroom, and just as I sank my teeth into its neck, the little creature let out the most hideous cry. I snapped its neck immediately. I’m not sure if it was the screech or the snap that awoke my parents, but nonetheless I was caught hanging upside down in the tree feeding on the little feline. It’s not as though I could stop midstream and consider the possible need for an explanation. Besides, blood would have spilled everywhere if I’d done that.
Needless to say, the cat was out of the bag, or more accurately, hanging out of my mouth. I’d been nailed. I tried to act like the urge had just occurred to me spontaneously, but it didn’t wash. My mother told me she was most hurt by the lying. My dad had to redirect her to the fact that I had a cat hanging out of my mouth. That’s when she fainted. Watching her turn pale and then imagining the blood draining out of her head was titillating and gross, all at the same time. I had to lick my lips. I dropped the kitty. My dad must have thought I had dry lips from being nervous, so he just tousled my hair before he took on that stern face again and helped me back inside. Then he leaned over to pick up Mom. I was jealous. I wanted to pick her up or bite her, one or the other. It wouldn’t be the last time I faced ambivalence in my life, just the most memorable. I was grounded for the weekend and my parents told me not to be caught again with an animal hanging out of my mouth.
Over the succeeding years, I tried not to feed anywhere close to home. I couldn’t risk giving my parents any evidence of my continuing descent into moral depravity. Some kids used dope and had sex. I was a bloodsucker, pure and simple. I just didn’t need to look like one in front of my parents.
Around the time of junior prom, I began to think maybe I wasn’t so abnormal after all. The look on my parent’s faces when I told them I was taking Susie to the prom convinced me that they thought I was normal also. Somehow, I think they always feared some other skeleton creeping up on them in the middle of the night. My dating a boy might have been just the ticket to Catholic reform school they needed.
I’d managed to have several normal years around the house, doing nothing more memorable than smashing the car into the garage while learning to drive and crashing a few idle softballs into the neighbor’s windows. As long as I wasn’t having sex with my twin sister and my parents hadn’t found any drugs in my room, I was good to go. Selective amnesia was a good thing. They had high hopes for the prom.
Junior prom came around in mid-October, so it was still warm outside. It was too bad, because I really had this urge to wear red cape with my powder blue tuxedo. I had one. I kept it in my closet. I thought it would look really cool. My sister said it looked really creepy. And this from a girl I personally caught trying to feel up her best friend. She tried to tell me she was looking to see if her friend had falsies, but I wasn’t buying, so then she tried to bribe me, and that was how I ended up with a date with Susie. Susie would do anything for her best friend. I counted on it.
On the night of the prom, my sister Gwen and I came downstairs to show off our prom uniforms; my Gwen’s snow white prom dress and my powder blue tuxedo, without the cape. Our parents were pleased as punch and bleary-eyed from their second or third scotch and sodas, but who was counting? They’re usually such teetotalers. They said they were so happy their children were growing up, but then, they both burst into tears and had to leave the room. We used it as an excuse to ask for money just before we bolted from the house. If we weren’t hasty, we might have to watch them try and shore up one another’s feelings. Then we truly would be sick. Sometimes my sister and I seemed from different planets; tonight was not one of them.
Since I was going out with Susie, and my sister was going out with Susie’s brother Dale, we just decided to double date, not that a decision was really ever verbalized. It just ended up that way. Sometimes we seemed to read one another’s mind.
Getting my sister to sit in the back seat with Dale almost exhausted my patience. I knew she wanted to sit with Susie, but Susie was my date and that was final. It wasn’t like Dale wanted to date my sister, but he had his own crosses to bear and needed to get out of the house and appear normal like the rest of us. It was no business of mine why he did it; crystal freak.
For the entire drive across town, Dale and I talked sports and my sister and Susie tried desperately to ignore us. We sat miles apart in the car, so there were no accidental rubbing of knees, shoulders, thighs, or anything remotely like that. We even tossed one another the corsages and everybody pinned it on himself or herself. In other words, the evening was going along just fine. Susie and her brother were so creepy. I hoped she didn’t expect a kiss or anything. There was only one thing I wanted to do with her and it was going to be my little secret. Modesty prevented me from thinking it a big secret.
The trip across town normally took the bus driver about ten minutes, so of course; it took twenty minutes for me. I was not going to risk a ticket or a policeman ruining my plans.
I saw the train coming before the crossing sign came down and we waited. Actually, I couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. This train was always on time, probably driven by some anal compulsive engineering nerd. We were going to have fun and nothing and no one was getting in the way of that. Not the police and certainly not a train barreling through the side of the car. Patience was a virtue, even if it meant being holed up in a car with a girl who gave me the willies, her brother sniffing repeatedly like he needed a bottle of glue, or my sister who had a case of the hots for her best friend; my date.
When we finally reached the school, everybody jumped out of the car like someone had passed gas. Dale said he needed to take a leak and headed out behind the school, as though we couldn’t figure out what he was really doing. When he came back he looked so relaxed and happy that we all caught it. We all took deep breaths, assumed our postures, begrudgingly locked arms, and walked inside like we’d been doing this our whole lives. We even managed to dance a few songs together without gagging or really even touching.
Someone had spiked the punch, as usual, so Dale was happy. I was having none of it, and noticed that my sister didn’t have any either. She smiled at me like we had a secret. Susie joined in with Date and had enough punch for all of us. She even had the audacity to act like she didn’t know it was spiked. It was a better performance than all her parts in every school play since kindergarten.
We managed to drop our dates off on time and smile as they supported one another up the steps and into the house. They were attributing their giggly weakness to drugs, alcohol, and a good time.
For someone who hadn’t had any alcohol, I had the weirdest buzz. It was like a contact high. I hoped I’d be able to drive home without attracting the wrong attention; not that the police in this town had the brains of a gnat. As I sat behind the wheel, my sister reached over and wiped the blood off my cheek. She licked her fingers. I suggested she use baking soda to get the stain off her ball gown. After all, if she planned on showing that dress to her grandkids, it might be a little difficult to explain.
As we inched up the driveway, we saw the lights were on in our parent’s room. Obviously, they were awake and waiting for us. We were too tipsy to care and barreled in through the front door without a care in the world. Our parents stood at the top of the stairs with stiff backs, their arms crossed, and a stern look on their faces. It was comical and of course, my sister and I burst out laughing. Surprisingly, our parents joined in. As they chuckled and turned to go back into their room, my father said he was glad I’d graduated from rodents and cats. While I stood their slack-jawed, my mom told my sister to soak her dress in the bathtub in cool water with a couple tablespoons baking soda. There was no sense ruining a perfectly good dress, after all, what would she tell her grandchildren.